GSDR Regional Asia Pacific Consultation

Manila, 28th to 30th November; Ajay K Jha was invited to participate in the Global Sustainable Development Report Regional Consultation for Asia Pacific organized by UNDESA and the Govt of Philippines. Ajay K Jha contributed by giving remarks on energy security and climate action.

Inputs to the GSDR 2023 Regional (Asia Pacific) Consultation by Ajay K Jha

CECOEDECON/PAIRVI India | MGOS Coordination Mechanism on the SDGs

Broad overarching concerns

  1. Local Vs Global; While it may be good to draw lessons from what works locally; it should not undermine the fact that that many of the problems that we are talking about (climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, lack of sustainable development etc.) are global challenges and can only be dealt with globally. No amount of local solution will be appropriate to deal with these global challenges. No country or region can be sustainable alone, no country or group of countries can reverse climate change, unless it is achieved globally. The efforts to make a problem which is global and systemic to one which is local and individual puts in unnecessary burden of finding/providing solution on the communities and countries which has no role in bringing this problem in the first place.
  2. Sustainable development must address systemic issues; The systemic issues of poverty and inequality imposed by reasons of global power structures, where few countries and actors enjoy immense power and benefits from it, economic system is based on continued pursuit of material growth and profits and is essentially extractivist. Trade and aid system which have been of little help for the poorer countries are part of the same economic system. Militarization and war, marginalization of human rights and rights of the smaller countries including the Indigenous peoples, patriarchy etc. stem out of the systemic reasons. The systemic issues reinforce themselves through various manifestations including poverty, hunger and inequality rising consistently, continued appropriation of resources of global south by the global north, 1/3rd of the population still waiting for their first shot of vaccine, more than 60% of the LMICs (Lower and middle income countries) paying more to debt service than to health and education, climate crisis getting out of hand and majority who are suffering have no role in bringing about this crisis, custodians of the nature and bio diversity losing access to land and forests and having no role in their protection, women will still take more than 100 years to achieve pay parity in many parts of the world, while developed countries could mobilize $17 trillion within months to provide fiscal stimulus during the pandemic they haven’t been able to keep up their more than decade old promise of providing $100 billions to the LMICs.
  3. GSDR 2023 must be bold; It must clearly say that due to lack in the global cooperation as well as countries domestic efforts we have been far away from achieving the SDGs before the pandemic, now we are moving further away from it. Many countries would not be able to achieve the SDGs due to lack of fiscal and policy space and SDGs cannot be achieved unless each country and each person achieves it without leaving anyone behind.

Comments related to energy decarbonization and universal access to energy

  1. Energy justice and energy democracy as important considerations; Renewable energy revolution is also following the same approach as conventional energy where it remains concentrated in very few hands, and goes against the democratic character of the renewable energy. The focus should be on having energy/electricity access through simple decentralized solutions (viz. roof top solar) than aiming to have on grid mega projects. Renewable revolution cannot be complete unless larger part of the communities participates in that. Universal access to energy should include providing energy/electricity also for the purposes of livelihoods rather than just lighting up homes. Business and industries, private operators in the RE have an important role, however, they must engage local communities in the spirit of partnership.
  2. Global Scale RE will be Fossil Fuel ++; Aiming at a planetary scale RE to replace all fossil fuel by renewable energy again is fallacious and will be counterproductive due to several reasons including limitations of financial and material resources, natural resources including land and might increase social conflicts, which is already taking place at several places (MINBY also in the RE). Therefore, first aim should be to reduce use of energy in affluent societies.
  3. Just transition is not only energy/electricity transition; Energy transition gives us an opportunity to transform current societies into a more sustainable and viable one. It should be seen as a transition which is just ecologically, socially and economically appropriate.
  4. Energy transition vs electricity transition; The current focus is on electricity transition (to convert electricity produced from FF to one produced from RE)Also energy and electricity transition is often confused, even as electricity composes just around 20% of the entire energy basket. Electricity is most convenient but often dirtiest form of energy. Many energy needs (esp in rural areas) can be fulfilled with mechanical energy without necessarily converting them in energy. The assessment of how much energy is needed should be based on realistic mapping of energy needs rather than by just deducing it from the desired rate of growth.
  5. Energy decarbonization for whom? The strongest consideration for energy decarbonization should be to create more development space for lower and middle income countries and addressing questions of climate and development justice. However, the unfortunate situation we are in, these questions are being side stepped. Even if we give entire remaining carbon budget to lower and middle income countries they would not be develop as high income countries. Elephant in the room is continued colonialism and imperialism manifested by the fact that HICs still have huge resource footprint (the per capita resource consumption of countries on the countries on the top of the SDGs list is huge (32 tons per person as against global average of 12 tons per person and sustainable limits of 7 tons per person!). This is continued capture of resources of the global north which needs to be addressed to achieve sustainability.